This week: Good news, bad news

Canada and U.S. look to ease border restrictions, while the RCMP’s top job is once again open


This week - good news
Eleven abandoned puppies were rescued from an Ottawa dumpster (Ottawa Humane Society)


Undefending the border

Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerged from a meeting with Barack Obama last week with an agreement in principle on a common security perimeter. The pair are turning bureaucrats loose on a bilateral search for ways to protect the world’s largest international trading relationship from 10 years’ worth of accumulated border obstacles. Ideas range from shared cargo inspections to a second Detroit-Windsor bridge, but the mere will to restore the Canada-U.S. friendship to its old, friendly terms may be more valuable than any particular tech or law measure.

Yes, it is ethical oil

Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Energy report issued on the eve of the Harper-Obama announcement provided hope for Transcanada Pipelines in its quest to nab U.S. regulatory clearance for the Keystone XL project connecting Alberta oil markets with the Gulf of Mexico. The report confirms the pipeline would be unlikely to affect net global carbon emissions, but would relieve the dependency of U.S. refiners and end-users on Middle Eastern and other oil—shifting profits to Canada without significant greenhouse consequences.

One last ride

Mark Kelly, astronaut husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, displayed an impressive, old-school devotion to duty in resuming preparations to command April’s final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour. With Giffords stable and undergoing rehab, Kelly passed a special round of tests of his ability to concentrate on critical tasks. A NASA spokesman said that the three-time space traveller’s presence would “reduce the overall mission risk.”

A future without flu?

Researchers at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute cleared the first hurdle in testing a universal vaccine for fast-mutating influenza A. The “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 caused just 14,000 confirmed deaths worldwide, but highlighted the difficulty of on-the-fly flu vaccine development and distribution. The new treatment, which researchers hope will allow the body’s T-cells to seek and destroy even novel strains of influenza, worked well in a study of 11 volunteers, and opens the door to large-scale field tests.



This week - bad news
Cyclone Yasi’s winds of up to 290 km/h devastated northeastern Australia (Torsten Blackwood/Afp/Getty Images)

A failed experiment

William Elliott, the first civilian commissioner of the RCMP, announced that he will resign his command in July. Elliott struggled with the job for four years, delaying reforms to the crisis-ridden force even as his management style sparked internal revolt. An RCMP labour spokesman said Elliott’s successor should be hired from within, and even Elliott agrees. But his regime seems to represent a lost opportunity for Mountie leadership that doesn’t suffer from rigid traditionalism and inflated self-regard.

At least it wasn’t a Hummer

A Saanich, B.C., office belonging to federal Green party Leader Elizabeth May was demolished by an out-of-control truck. No one was in the building when what police called “a 17-year-old new driver with a lead foot” plowed through the structure. May’s local campaign manager Jonathan Dickie characterized losses as minimal, but says the accident “is definitely a complication” in the event of a spring election.

Russia’s sorrow

Doku Umarov, Chechnya’s Islamist “Emir of the Caucasus,” has claimed responsibility for last month’s suicide bombing that killed 35 at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Umarov promised “a year of blood and tears” if the rebellious Chechen republic is not granted independence. Brutal tactics by the Putin regime succeeded in stopping Chechen attacks on Russian civilians between 2004 and 2010, but inflicted grave harm on Russian civil society and on Chechen human rights. A renewal of terror seems certain to make matters worse.

Here we go again

Rapid inflation is rearing its head in Argentina, which seemed not long ago to have left the phenomenon behind for good. The official rate is just 10.9 per cent, but private economists say political meddling with national statistics is masking the true figure—a Venezuela-esque 27 per cent. Inflation cycles are a perennial scourge in Argentina, which was the southern hemisphere’s richest country a century ago, and a crisis could threaten efforts to restore lender confidence hurt by the republic’s 2001 debt default.